top of page

Comic Book Character Design: Pain Colors

Flatting, Rendering & Building Up Forms

In this tutorial I’ll reveal my process for coloring a comic book character design. The character featured in this lesson is ‘Pain’. He was created for a comic book created by Rob Arnold called ‘Replicator’.


For more information on Replicator please visit:

The coloring approach we’ll be going over in this lesson is a mix between the traditional, graphic rendering style seen in comic books from the late 90’s, and a more painterly aesthetic generated through digital brush work. The goal here is to vividly carve out the forms of the character, light it, and make it pop using an optimized workflow.

Previously, when it came to coloring comics I used the common cut-and-grad technique, where an area of the form would be selected and brushed over with a soft airbrush. To create additional depth within the forms, new layers of tone would be created through additional selections. 

We’ll be doing the same thing here in this demonstration, except with one major adjustment to the workflow – instead of making selections to build up the layers, we’ll be painting them straight in. This speeds the coloring process up considerably!

The coloring method I’m about to show you can be broken down into three main steps. The first will be to fill in the flats, or in other words, establish the base color tones throughout the character design. These are flat mid color tones, that don’t vary in terms of light and dark value.

Next we’ll color pick from the base colors and adjust their brightness to loosely paint in the base shadows and highlights. At this stage we’re focused on large, broad forms, with our main goal being to establish the lighting setup for our scene. This is important because this base lighting will set the scale of light and dark for the forms throughout our character.

The second portion of the coloring process involves adding color to the base lighting pass. Up until this point, we’ve been working with the local color tones derived from the base colors we initially laid in. The result of that is a while light, since the lighting itself isn’t overlaying a color of its own over the top of the character. 

Our goal here is to generate a more natural appearance to our lighting. This will look more appealing, and also enrich our color palette as we enter into the final stages of rendering. To add color to our lighting, we’ll use a combination of overlays – a color layer for the highlights set to ‘Overlay’ and a shadow color layer set to ‘Multiply’.

In the final phase of the coloring workflow, we’ll add in some additional render passes. These will help us to build up the highlights and in turn give more depth to the forms. This is the point at which our character concept will really begin to pop off the page with an added level of dimension.

Adding in the final render passes can be tedious since we’re dealing with subtler forms and finer details, but the good news is that all the ground work has been done for us at this point. Our only job now is to emphasize what’s already there on the page.

I hope you enjoy this tutorial and that you get a ton of value out of it. I’d encourage you to try out some of the techniques you’ve observed throughout this demonstration and see how they work out for you.

All brushes used in this tutorial can be found over on our site.
Thanks so much for watching, until next time – keep on drawing!

Software Used: Photoshop

If you like the video, show your support by commenting, sharing or subscribing.

Comic Art Community -
How to Draw Comics .NET -
Instagram -
Facebook -
Twitter -
Tumblr -
Pinterest -

Sign Up Free and Get:

  • The Step-By-Step E-Book walking you through the making of "Cleineclypto"

  • Figure Drawing Foundations: Proportions Of The Heroic Figure E-Book

  • Access to subscriber exclusive special offers, promotions and giveaways

bottom of page